Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Our Changing Climate: How about that weather?

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

ABC News led its evening newscast last night (Monday, Aug. 15) with a report about the extreme weather that we’re seeing around the world. Click here to watch the report.

Note the comments about how weather conditions are hurting farmers and the agricultural industry. Yesterday here in Washington, Gov. Gregoire asked U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to determine whether to designate the entire state of Washington a farm disaster area due to weather-related productions delays and crop losses.

The delays are the result of cold and wet weather conditions in every corner of the state throughout the spring and summer, according to a Governor’s Office news release.

“Everyone knows we’ve had lousy weather this spring and summer, but most of us don’t suffer serious economic consequences as a result,” Gov. Gregoire said. “Farmers across the state have watched their crops develop late or fail to thrive during this year’s cold and wet weather. ...”

So, yes, there’s a lot of weird weather out there. Everywhere, it seems.

The ABC report makes the direct tie to climate change as the cause. That reflects the general trend in the scientific community toward identifying specific extreme weather events as a result of climate change.

That view has changed over the past few years. Even though extreme weather was an expected impact of climate change, climate scientists were reluctant to say climate change caused a specific weather event at a specific point in time.

In terms of climate science here in Washington, Ecology generally follows the lead of the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington. Group members still are leery of making such direct, specific ties.

Ecology’s climate change portal also offers some information about extreme weather in Washington. Some of it is a little outdated, but the main points hold true.

Finally, this USA Today report focuses on how U.S. cities are trying to react to extreme weather events, no matter the cause.

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